Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Donation to Vets at Fort Bragg's Fisher House

Two of my author friends, Mary Flinn and Jane Tesh, teamed up with me to spread a little holiday cheer to the vets and their families at Fort Bragg's Fisher House. The Fisher House is a home-away-from-home for the families of vets who are receiving treatments. While there are Fisher Houses all over the country, I chose the one closest to Ft. Bragg because Mary, Jane, and I are North Carolina writers, and our books are all set in North Carolina.

On Saturday, Dec. 21, I delivered a box containing all of our novels to Fisher House representative Becky Kerr. That's her on the left - she's a Gold Star recipient, as is her husband. She volunteers at the Fisher House, which otherwise has a staff of one.

We met in Southern Pines, which was convenient to both of us that day. I was in the area for a family get-together, and she was finishing holiday shopping in nearby Pinehurst. You can read more about it, if you like.

It was a small gesture of thanks to our vets. I wish we could do more for them, but perhaps next year's donation will be bigger.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Good Reads Giveaway Link

Here's a link to the promotional giveaway of my new children's book, The Mermaid's Tale. It's on Good Reads, and there are only three copies, so head over there quick before the giveaway ends Tuesday evening!

Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Giveaway on Good Reads!

Enter to win a free copy of Mystery of the Lake House #2: The Mermaid's Tale, going on right now at Good Reads!

I've got more promotions lined up, so stay tuned!


Monday, December 16, 2013

Mermaids are real, says first book review for The Mermaid's Tale

The reviewer from is convinced mermaids are real after reading the second book in the Mystery at the Lake Houses series, The Mermaid's Tale, that I co-wrote with my young son, Will: 

Jock Avery and his neighbors at Long Leaf Lake, Chip and Lynna, are back in this second fun adventure in the Mystery at the Lake House series by Laura Wharton and her 11-year-old son, William.

Regardless of whether or not you read the first book in the series, Monsters Below, this book is a real treat not to be missed. The story begins when seven-year-old Chip is watching his 10-year-old sister, Lynna, and friend, Jock, racing sailboats. Imagine Chip’s surprise when he sees a mermaid in the lake and Lynna almost runs over it!

Jock is skeptical when Chip says he saw a mermaid, but Lynna thinks they should believe her brother. The three friends immediately begin trying to figure out how they can discover whether or not there is a mermaid in the lake — or as Jock believes, something else that made Chip think he saw a mermaid.

But Jock also has other things to think about besides mermaids. He’s deeply engrossed in reading the latest Sam Justice adventure book — which provides a story within the book’s story. And while he’s enjoying his summer visit with his grandparents at the lake, he’s frustrated when his parents come to visit and his father spends all his time on the phone talking about work. Will his dad ever find time to spend with Jock? And then there’s the summer swim team competition….

But those concerns soon take second place when one night Jock also sees the mermaid. Is she real? How is it possible that a mermaid could be inside Long Leaf Lake?

Young readers will enjoy discovering the answers to these questions. And parents will appreciate that along the way, children will learn about fish, how to prevent water pollution, and the importance of believing in our friends.

I promise that everyone, young and old, will be surprised by how this story ends. Explaining a mermaid is no easy feat, but authors Wharton and Wharton are not only up to the task, but they’ve had help from a real-life mermaid to carry off this story with grace and ease.

And that’s not all — besides the story itself, the book includes an interview with William about how he and his mother collaborate in writing their books. Additional “treats” include recipes for actual delicious treats enjoyed in the story by the main characters, a sneak preview at the next book in the series, Secret of the Compass, and best of all, an interview with the real-life mermaid who provided the Whartons with information for this book! Yes, mermaids are real. Don’t believe me? Then read this book. Whether you’re a kid, a parent, or a lover of mermaids, you’re sure to enjoy The Mermaid’s Tale.

For more information about The Mermaid’s Tale and the other Mystery at the Lake House books, visit the author’s page at

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Third Mystery Book for Children About to be Released

Just in time for Christmas! I'm excited to announce that the second book in the "Mystery at the Lake House" series is about to be released. This one is titled, "The Mermaid's Tale, " and if you ever doubted if mermaids were real, this is the book for you!

In the first story, young readers meet Jock Avery and his two new friends Lynna and Chip Woodward who have just moved to his lakeside community. Learning the values of teamwork and trust, the three work together to solve a mystery concerning an ominous sound that 7-year-old Chip thinks is the Lochness Monster!

In the second book, Chip is sure he's seen a mermaid in the lake where 10-year-old Jock and Lynna are sailing their little boats. The only problem is, nobody believes him - not even his friend, Jock! What's a boy to do? Find the mermaid, of course. That's exactly what the three pals set out to do in this tale.

Each book has an interview with my 11-year-old son, who helped me to develop characters, plots and the intriguing storyline that helps the characters grow.

The books have special projects for young readers to try, and recipes from the characters' tables that might be treats for readers, too. Throughout the books are threads of an adventure series that Jock enjoys, the plotline often running concurrent with Jock's own adventure.

Also, this book has an interview with a mermaid. The mermaid in the story was fashioned after my dear friend, Mermaid Linden of Mermaids in Motion, and I think readers will enjoy getting to know this fascinating creature who is often summoned to make dreams come true for children through the Make a Wish Foundation and other organizations and venues.

If you're looking for a memorable gift for a young reader, please consider "Monsters Below" and "The Mermaid's Tale". My goal with this series is to encourage young readers to become young writers.

You could be the one to help ignite their passion!

I'm going to have a book launch party on Facebook December 17 and I'd love for you to come, but you should be able to find it sooner at independent stores and online. It will be available in paperback and in e-book format, too! I'll let you know the day it's available! Promise!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On being a friendie: It's a good thing for authors

As often as possible, I like to be keep company with a number of tremendously talented authors and independent booksellers. It's a synergistic relationship filled with high energy, much like the author salons (or saloons, if you're a Hemingway fan) of days gone by.

That's why I'm proud to be a "Friendie" -- a friend of independent booksellers and authors. Please support your local bookstores and independent authors. Both work hard at bringing special places in which to enjoy well-crafted entertaining educating, and emotion-pulling stories.

Here's a media release from SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Association, that explains more about a fun new program. Take a look -- you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How working remotely works for me

Because I make a living writing from a small town in North Carolina, I'm often asked how and where do I find work. I can tell you it's not coming from N.C. companies at present, though I've tried really hard to land local work. I don't mind commuting to work for the right job. They just haven't presented themselves. I grew up around the Washington, D.C., area and commuted daily from the Annapolis area. That drive makes driving from Mt. Airy to Winston-Salem (or even Greensboro) a walk in the park by comparison.

And since I have bills to pay and a fiction addiction to support, I have to find work somewhere. Fortunately, I've been able to find contract writing opportunities that can be done remotely online.

As an example, I answered a post on Craig's List from a company wanting content written for instructional design courses. The work could be done remotely. Sounds good to me - I have this kind of experience. Two weeks and two courses later (I provided content and programming in Articulate),  I have established a great relationship with a client who is adding me as a team member to proposals for ongoing work.
In fact, Craig's List is the place where I found another client, this one who sought someone to ghostwrite blogs for attorneys and CPAs (and cabinet makers plus one of the partners of the social media company). That client is in New York, though that wasn't where I found the posting.

The other source I've had success with is a site called, Since January, I've been working with a progressive community college on a part-time, as-needed basis writing marketing communications stuff. This college regularly hires its employees using this site - and not just marketing folks!

The end result is a great mix of work for me that can be done from this out-of-the-way location where I currently live. Now that's what the Internet is all about, in my opinion. I've waited YEARS to be able to work this way!

Do you have a reliable source for finding online work? Share it with your friends. This really works, folks!   

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to make Harvest Gold disappear

The bathroom remodeling project called for a disappearing act: Harvest Gold (a favorite color in 1979 for appliances and bathroom fixtures like sinks, tubs and toilets ) was hogging the spotlight in this vintage hall bath of ours, and it was time for it to disappear.

Several years ago, in an attempt to disguise the mustard-colored uglies, I painted the bathroom walls turquoise, the vanity a medium shade of blue, and put up the small bit of wallpaper that my mother-in-law had leftover from her last bathroom remodel -- it had a mosaic of brightly colored "tiles" that created an image of fish -- golden fish. The goal was to blend the fixtures into the scenery, making them look like an intentional choice. Complete the decor with shells and sea prints, and I called it done. It didn't work out quite like I thought it would, but we've lived with it for five years that way.

Well, now that the little boy of the house has grown up past the age of reasoning (we hope) and no longer throws his wet washrag up on the "popcorn" ceiling above the bathtub just to see what would happen (what do you think happened?), I decided it was probably time to revisit the idea of a renovation.

Given the budget we have for home remodel projects (i.e., no money, since we already have replaced the roof, fixed major plumbing issues, added a wood-burning stove, installed new energy-efficient windows, installed a new hot water tank, etc.), I had to be sure this "fix" would be the last fix for that bathroom. And since the budget doesn't allow for ripping the Harvest Gold uglies from their spots, I did what every stumped girl does: I called Mom.

My mom is no ordinary mom, just so you know. She's a retired interior designer/decorator whose client list included some of the finest homeowners in upscale neighborhoods throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and the Raleigh/Chapel Hill area. She's worked on beachfront, lakefront, and city-front properties, and has made fairly basic suburbia houses look like it was ready to grace the cover of a well-known shelter magazine. My mom is a self-taught colorist with an eye for details and a flair for making things work when everyone else says, "that can't be done."

When I told her of my conundrum, she said as if waving a magic wand, "Just make it disappear. Hide it in plain sight by painting the walls a lighter shade of yellow. Add a bold accent color. And add black. Every room needs black."

So, last Sunday, I started with the basics: Strip wallpaper. Check. Putty holes. Check. "Cut in" edges. Check.Get one coat on -- not looking too good. Hubby and Son are not liking this color choice so far.
Try to spray on popcorn repair patching. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The nozzle got stuck in the spray position.
Clean up huge mess in the bathroom. Check. (Sigh.) Down on hands and knees scrubbing floor to within an inch of its life. Check. (Why did I think this project would be a quick fix?) Run out of time. Definitely. I'd forgotten how long these projects take. Meanwhile, we've all been sharing the other bathroom, taking turns using the remaining functional shower. That's loads of fun at bath time!

Yesterday, like a girl possessed, I continued the project:
  • Finish second coat. Check. 
  • Try a putty-like popcorn patch -- works perfectly, is easy, and isn't messy! Big CHECK!
  • Paint three light coats of black paint on a narrow shelf unit to increase storage (and to add the touch of black that every room should have). Check. (More coats still needed.) Half a check mark.
  • Put mirrors back up. This is starting to look good! Check!

This evening, after work, I'll paint the ceiling patch white. I'll also put another coat on the shelf unit. Son chose a nice black and silver shower curtain, and is starting to feel less hostile toward the yellow color (Hubby's smart enough not to comment at this point. He knows I'll hand him the paint brush and walk away if he does.)

By midweek, I'll hang new towel bars and officially call it done. Oh, how I love that word.

Thanks, Mom!

I started this blog thinking of how I was able to compare hiding bathroom fixtures in plain sight with how I place clues in a mystery -- like the one I'm working on now, the second in the Mystery at the Lake House series for children; but I'm not going to do that. I think you can see how it might turn out. And I'll let you know when that  project is done, too.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

IndieBRAG Award: Wharton's novel Leaving Lukens merits investment of readers' time and money

I'm pleased to share this interview about Leaving Lukens' BRAG Medallion award. Exciting!!

A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Laura Wharton who is the author of Leaving Lukens, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Leaving Lukens merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Laura Wharton

Stephanie: Hello Laura! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. I noticed your story (Leaving Lukens) is set in 1942 and it’s a mystery. Please tell me a little about it and who designed your book cover.
Laura: Leaving Lukens is the story of 17-year-old Ella who faces leaving the only home she’s ever known: Lukens, a small fishing village on an isolated peninsula across the river from Oriental, North Carolina. Impacted by the economy, the threat of war, and the loss of a school teacher who was rowed across the river daily to teach the few remaining children in Lukens, the townspeople are dismantling their homes and floating them across the river on barges to larger communities of Oriental and Beaufort – moving away to find work in New Bern with its growing shipyard which is hiring to build minesweepers in support of the war or to the nearby military base of Cherry Point. Ella’s convinced she can stay on by herself, but spying a Nazi patrol raft surprises her one evening. She quickly learns that the war is very real and very near. A visiting sailor who has come to Lukens under the guise of helping his aunt and uncle dismantle their home and relocate to New Bern befriends Ella and shows her that sometimes looking isn’t exactly seeing what’s truly in front of her. As you might guess, he may not be all he appears to be.

The book has been hailed as a work of suspenseful mystery, and has landed me on the North Carolina Literary Trail, for which I am honored. The lovely cover was done by designer Dawn Mitchell at g4ginteractive. (

leaving Lukens

Stephanie: Is this your first published novel or are there others? If so, what are the titles and genre they are written in?
Laura: Leaving Lukens is my second novel. The first was The Pirate’s Bastard, which was nominated for the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. It too is a historical adventure – a bit of a pirate story – set in colonial North Carolina. Like Leaving Lukens, it can be read by teens (YA) and adults.
I’ve also written two children’s mysteries. One is Mystery at the Phoenix Festival. The other, which is the first in the Mystery at the Lake House, is titled, Monsters Below. I wrote both books with the input from children, and we had so much fun with the projects. The second book in the Mystery at the Lake House series is titled, The Mermaid’s Tale and is in outline stage at this point. Both are suitable for readers age’s six to 12.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write Leaving Lukens and was there any research involved?
Laura: I read a small calendar listing of an event held yearly for descendants’ of Lukens (yes, it was once a real village. The only thing that remains of it is a cemetery, which does figure into the storyline of Leaving Lukens). I researched all I could about Lukens, the time period including the music and foods, the way New Bern was at the time, USOs, military history, and especially German U-boat activities during the Battle of the Atlantic. Fortunately, I’m a research nut, and I love history – so this was as much fun as writing the story.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and were there any challenges?
Laura: It took me six months to research and write the book. It was far easier to research than my first novel because back then, the internet wasn’t what it is today. (That one took me six years to write, and another six years to find a publisher for its release.) I truly enjoy going to New Bern and Oriental, and I was inspired at a conference I attended in New Bern hosted by the North Carolina Maritime History Council. By walking the streets of New Bern, the story truly came together in my head.
The challenge, as always, is making time to write. I love the researching and writing process, and once I start a project, I easily get lost in my characters. It’s hard to extract myself from “their world” to go make dinner, tend to my family, do chores, or do my other work as a remote marketing specialist for a community college, but that’s what many writers do: we juggle.

Stephanie: What is your current writing project?
Laura: I’m currently developing characters and researching for an adult story tentatively titled, In Julia’s Garden. It is a mixture of suspenseful contemporary and historical fiction, and it’s a lot of fun. Like Leaving Lukens and The Pirate’s Bastard, it will be a work of “faction” – a mix of fact and fiction. The historical setting is based on a real antebellum mansion and garden located in Columbia, South Carolina, and the contemporary part is set in downtown Winston-Salem. My plan is to develop into a series, but we’ll see what the characters have to say about that idea.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Laura: Keep at it. If you believe in your story, then write it, refine it, and keep pushing it out of the nest that is your brain. Only you can give it wings!
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Laura: Another author whom I greatly admire showcased her BRAG medallion on Facebook. I looked into it then, and submitted Leaving Lukens for consideration. I’m delighted my book was chosen as an honoree.

Stephanie: How often do you write and what do you do to get in the mindset of writing?
Laura: Ideally, I write daily for two very early-morning hours. Some days offer more time. To get into the mindset is easy if time allows – I typically review what I’ve written the day before, and it just flows from there.

Stephanie: What are you currently reading and what do you plan on reading next?
Laura: I’m reading a nonfiction by Richard Zacks, The Pirate Hunter about Captain Kidd. I have a notion to write a “sequel” to The Pirate’s Bastard one day. Next book to start reading is my reference book on gardening, which I’ll refer to often as I develop the setting for In Julia’s Garden. I also enjoy adventures by Ted Bell, and Ian Fleming, and mysteries by Jane Tesh.

Stephanie: What is your favorite literary genre?
Laura: I enjoy adventures and mysteries most of all, but a solid non-fiction like Operation Mincemeat or The Map  is often a great backup for research and pleasure reading.

Stephanie :Laura, thank you! It was a pleasure chatting with you!  
Laura: Thank you for the interview!

Author Links & Picture

Laura Wharton

Friday, May 24, 2013

Best books for summer

Happy Memorial Day! And a great big thank you to all service personnel, past and present, who fought the freedoms we have ... including the freedom to choose the kind of books we want to read (and write). 

I was pleased to contribute suggestions for the Winston-Salem Journal's article on best summer books. I got to promote two of my favorite local authors, Jane Tesh and Mary Flinn. Jane writes mysteries, and Mary writes romance novels. If you need something fun to read this summer, I heartily recommend books by either author.

Here's a link to the article. Please help me spread the word about these great books!


Best to all!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Developing characters, one puzzle piece at a time

Being a good liar takes practice.

How do I know? Because every time I sit down to work on a novel, I get to alter the truth to suit my character's needs, the way a prism bends light to create a colorful rainbow pattern on a wall.

Before we can have lies that might move a work of suspenseful fiction along, though, we need to have characters. For me, this exercise is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing: I enjoy selecting what a "person's" habits are (the good and the bad), what a bad hair day looks like, or what type of work the character does plus so much more -- and how it all fits together as pertinent pieces of a puzzle that becomes the story. For instance, is one of his or her bad habits going to be a catalyst for trouble? Or perhaps exactly the opposite. As each character trait comes to life, the character on a page becomes nearly real -- or at least real enough to me that I can write the story I'm intended to write about that person.

Today's exercise includes researching local coffee shops where my main character, Lily, might frequent. This requires me to identify where she works, how close it is to said coffee shop, traffic patterns, downtown walking routes, etc. Oh, yes, and I get to pick what flavor she likes. Only problem is, I'm not a coffee drinker. I love the smell, but hate the taste. So, I'll have to enlist the help of others for that puzzle piece.

Trivial? Maybe, in the minds of some; but what if ... on the way to or from the favorite coffee place, Lily meets someone important to the story? What if ... the coffee shop is out of her favorite coffee (gasp!), and she has to try something else? Did I mention she's a creature of habit and she's going to freak out just a bit about having to change (that's scary!)?? Did I mention she's a bit misanthropic, so meeting people on the street is not comfortable for her and may make her change her daily route (another change; another gasp!)? And, that while she's rerouted, she slips into an antique shop she's never been in before and finds something of value to helps to make sense of a particular sub-story problem in her life?? Oh, the possibilities! Oh, the fun of it all!

So, any suggestions about the type of coffee? I truly have no idea what she'll be drinking. :-)

Monday, March 4, 2013

BRAG Medallion for Novel, LEAVING LUKENS

I'm honored to announce that my novel, Leaving Lukens, has received a BRAG Medallion by the Book Readers Appreciation Group - an independent band of readers and reviewers who select books unsolicited! Thank you to the readers and reviewers! I'm thrilled! 

(Check out that "bling" on the cover!)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Catching up with myself

Maybe it's the old newspaper reporter/editor in me, but I pride myself on making deadlines. Imagine my shock and dismay when I opened my OWN blog today to add a post and read that my last entry was back in October!

I could say there hasn't been much to report, but then I'd be lying. Well, as a writer of fiction, I guess I could be expected to lie ... a little. Truth is, I've been very busy. I finished out a wonderful semester of college teaching, and I landed a marketing communications position with a community college in Pennsylvania. Mind you, I'm in North Carolina. I knew that some day, this "virtual" work world would really, well, work out. It has finally happened, and I'm thrilled. I work remotely for HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, on a part-time basis. This schedule leaves time for family, travel, and writing.

Speaking of which, I have two things in the works now. The first is a novel titled, Deceived. This is story I wrote years ago, but was warned off from seeking publishing because the it is based on a true story, only slightly fictionalized (you could say it's "Faction"). At the time I wrote it, I was warned that someone could get killed for it ... perhaps even me. I dug deep. I researched. I waited. And then, like all novelists do to a certain extent, I lied. I think enough time has passed, and I've rewritten it substantially, so it's now more fiction and less facts. It's being edited now. I'll keep you posted on its release date.

The second story is much less controversial. It's a true story about a young man who made a very difficult decision at the age of 16. After a car wreck mangled him and killed his stepfather, this young man told a surgeon to amputate his crushed and useless leg. What he did after that decision was life-altering and awe-inspiring. I don't think anyone will object to this story. In fact, I hope many will look at Justin Webb as the hero he is becoming. More to come!